Acting on complaints from Okotoks gardeners concerned with the large numbers of urban deer munching on valuable plants, town officials conducted a deer count earlier this fall.
On September 15, more than 50 volunteers fanned out across town to see how many deer were within town limits. Okotoks was divided into districts, with each team of volunteers counting within a set boundary. The count was quick in a bid to avoid counting the quick-moving deer herd twice.
During the one hour count, the teams discovered 51 deer within the town limits with another 15 just outside for a total of 66 deer. Deer are found in every neighbourhood in Okotoks, not just in the outlying neighbourhoods.
This number will act as a baseline number so the town can monitor the deer population and take measures to control it, if warranted. The count should be repeated every two years.
The count was conducted in consultation with a veterinarian from Bragg Creek, Dr. Judith Samson-French who will work with the town to create an environment that will not be attractive to deer rather than controlling them through a cull.
Okotoks home owners can take preventative measures in their own yards to help deter four-legged visitors that dine on vegetation all winter long.
Maintain Fruit Trees
In the fall, pick low-hanging fruit and if fruit falls to the ground, rake it up as soon as possible. If deer are an issue, you may want to remove the tree altogether.
When Deer are Hungriest
Spring is when deer are trying to gain back the weight they lost over the winter. New babies are born and does are nursing. They’re looking for plants with protein and moisture like impatients, pansies and ivy. Strawberries, although they don’t grow well in many parts of Alberta, are very attractive. An adult deer needs six to 10 pounds of lush greenery every day. Make them go out to the country to find it.
Smell is Everything
You can cover up the aroma of yummy plants with herbs, especially those with a strong scent. Garlic, chives, mind and lavender can be a detergent for deer who rely on smell to find food. Their sense of touch is secondary, but you can put them off with plants that have fuzzy leaves.
Plants Deer Dislike
These plants are off the menu for your friendly neighbourhood deer:
- Bleeding heart
- Lily of the Valley
- Spotted deadnettle
Other Tricks to Deter Deer
- Deer are afraid of unfamiliar objects. You might consider scarecrows or garden ornaments, particularly those that move. Add some wind chimes or motion-activated lights. You may have to switch these around because as soon as they become familiar, the deer might move in.
- You can always build a fence, but make it at least eight feet high. Electric fences are an option if you have the budget.
- Visit your favourite garden centre for deer deterrents such as netting, tree protectors and wraps and deer repellent. Powders and sprays with off-putting odours and spicy flavours such as smelly eggs and ammonia or capsaicin are very effective.
- Cheaper deterrents that many gardeners swear by are dryer sheets and bars of soap hung from nearby trees. These items need to be kept fresh to be effective.
- Buy a dog. Besides chasing deer away, the left a scent which will scare away deer long after the dog has come indoors.